More than two decades later, Ms. Simpson, 46, has become an expert bridge-builder credited with helping expand the franchise of Sports Illustrated in her role as group publisher of both Sports Illustrated for Kids and the new Sports Illustrated for Women, which is going to every-other-monthly frequency.
Named exec VP at SI last fall, Ms. Cleary is now charged with the responsibility of finding new business opportunities and extending various SI brands across all platforms. She currently is focusing on promotional and cable TV tie-ins for CnnSi and the brand's various Web sites.
One of Ms. Simpson's most challenging experiences was getting people to collaborate the year she was associate publisher of Life, but had no sales staff.
"I had to get really creative and borrowed from personnel from the staff of People, but we had a very good year," she says. "I'm a very good listener, which is a key strategy in collaborating among magazines and bringing different factions together to get the best results."
After holding various jobs in ad sales at Time Inc., Ms. Simpson was named publisher of SI for Kids in 1992, three years after its launch, and oversaw its growth from a magazine to a brand with diverse print, broadcast and online activities.
She hopes to do the same with SI for Women.
"We'll emphasize more sports participation than just the fan point of view, with a focus on health and the individual, but we'll still have the sports insight and authority of the core SI brand," she says.
She loves the challenge presented by spin-offs.
"In the early days of SI for Kids, people didn't think we could do this well, because Time's strength is in big weeklies, but we proved we can do diverse magazines here as well."
In addition to making SI for Women a success, she is working to cross-promote SI's three magazine brands, a difficult balancing act for titles with such diverse audiences under the broad umbrella of sports.
"I've never said 'no' to an interesting challenge," she says.